Calvert Hall Claims BCL Crown
By Keith Mills
One by one they walked to mid-court to receive their 2010 Baltimore Catholic League championship trophies from commissioner Jack Degele. Billy Bonds, Scott Mafale, Kyle Wise, Damian Lee -- the names were called until all 14 members of the Calvert Hall basketball team were honored.
But as the Cardinals celebrated a come-from-behind win over Mount St. Joseph, it was another group of players coach John Bauersfeld wanted to acknowledge -- the players who helped the Cards win their first Catholic League title 30 years ago.
"Mark Wilson, Pop Tubman, all the guys are going to be fired up over this one," said Bauersfeld. "This is a family. Look around the stands. The names go on and on."
He could have added Tim Hanifan, who played for Calvert Hall's first championship team in 1973. Or Doug Dodrill, who went on to play at UMBC and now coaches the Cards' championship junior varsity team along with Joe Orlando. Or brothers Paul and Darryle Edwards, both standouts on the unbeaten 1982 national championship team. Darryle Edwards is now one of Bauersfeld's assistant coaches.
"This is our first Catholic League championship since Duane Ferrell was here, and he's retired now from the NBA," said Bauersfeld. "We've always had a good program. Three straight years with Juan [Dixon] getting to the finals but we couldn't push over that hump. Now we have. It's just unbelievable."
Bauersfeld graduated from Calvert Hall in 1994 before moving on to play college basketball at Gettysburg. He never played on a Catholic League championship team, but now he's coached one as his Cardinals rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat Mount St. Joe, 46-44, March 1 at Reitz Arena. It's the school's first tournament championship since 1984.
And it was literally a game of two halves. Mount St. Joe clinched the first half, 29-18, dominating the first 12 minutes of the game. Matt Miller nailed the first shot of the game, a deep three-pointer from the left wing, and the Gaels didn't stop until they opened a 17-point cushion midway through the second quarter. Miller, Ryley Beaumont, Eric Atkins and David Windsor did just about anything they wanted on offense while junior Brian Morton stole two entry passes to 6-foot-8 Jonathan Graham and deflected another that led to a steal. Pat Clatchey's regular season champs led by 11 at intermission.
"We talked about denying ball reversal at halftime," said Bauersfeld. "We had to get out and make them a little more uncomfortable in running their offense. We wanted to have Jon stay in the middle and prevent Miller and Beaumont and Eric from driving."
Bauersfeld also challenged Lee, Calvert Hall's 6-foot-6 senior, who is headed to Towson.
"I told Damian he didn't give us anything in the first half, and he had 16 minutes left in his career and he needed to step up and rise to the occasion," said Bauersfeld. "I'd say he did."
Lee finished with 15 points while Donya Jackson, Graham and Wise played a strong second half.
Jackson, the 6-foot-4 senior who led Calvert Hall in the Cardinals' semifinal win over St. Frances Feb. 28 with 29 points, scored two quick baskets in the third quarter to get the Cards back in the game against Mount St. Joe. Lee then drilled a three-pointer and Graham, son of former Dunbar and Maryland standout Ernie Graham, scored inside on a powerful move and suddenly Mount St. Joe's 11-point halftime lead was down to two, just two minutes into the second half.
"That gave us a bounce in our step," said Bauersfeld. “But Mount St. Joe responded out of a timeout and we went down eight again. We came right back, stayed composed and got some easy buckets inside for Jon and just kept digging and digging and getting stops."
Finally the Cards took the lead, thanks to a picture-perfect kick-out from Graham to Wise, who drove the lane for a layup and a one-point lead with just over four minutes to go. Jackson hit another three and the cushion was four with 3:55 to go.
It was Mount St. Joe's turn to respond. Beaumont, who led the Gaels with 14 points, tied the game at 44 with two straight baskets with just over two minutes left.
With eight seconds remaining, the teams were still tied at 44 when Wise was tripped driving the lane; he nailed one of two free throws to give Calvert Hall a 45-44 lead. Atkins, the Catholic League regular season Player of the Year, came up short on a three-point attempt with two seconds left. Lee hit a free throw for the final margin.
"Two games in a row where our backs were to the wall, things didn't go our way early,” said Bauersfeld. “And they just fought and fought and fought. I couldn't be more proud of this group of seniors."
There are eight seniors on this year's team, including Wise, Lee, Jackson and Graham, a four-year starter and now Calvert Hall's second all-time leading scorer behind Juan Dixon, and ahead of Ricky Harris, now a senior at U. Mass.
At halftime, after Bauersfeld challenged his team to dig down and play harder, Graham and the seniors did the same.
"We just said we've got play harder and tougher," said Graham, who finished with nine points and 10 rebounds and was named to the All-Tournament team with Jackson, Lee, Atkins, Wayne Sparrow of St. Frances and Dylon Cormier of Cardinal Gibbons. "There were just 16 minutes left, possibly, in a Calvert Hall uniform and we have to get this. It's our last chance."
And maybe the last time Ernie Graham and his wife Karen would watch their son play a high school basketball game. Regulars at virtually every Calvert Hall game in their son's career, they were once again courtside at Reitz.
More than 30 years earlier Ernie Graham, whose high school career started at Lake Clifton, played his final high school game at the then-Baltimore Civic Center as Bob Wade's Dunbar Poets battled West Philadelphia High, led by McDonald's All-American Gene Banks.
"I lost my last game against West Philly," said Graham, a scoring machine at Dunbar and the 12th all-time leading scorer in Maryland. "Most players do. Jon's been on the varsity for four years. He's had a lot of injuries to overcome. The team's had their ups and downs and with one in any of these games this weekend his career would be over. But to end his career with a win … I'm extremely happy for him."
"It feels incredible," said Jonathan Graham. "Four years. With all the hard work and the struggles, it was all worth it. It was all meant for this moment right here and we finally got it."
Graham is leaning toward attending Seton Hall next year and will end his Calvert Hall career with nearly 100 wins, and an extremely impressed and grateful father.
"He's a special kid," said Ernie Graham. "He's not selfish. He loves his teammates. He's the first to pick somebody up off the floor. He claps when he's on the bench. He has a great grade point average. He's done some great things. More importantly, he's a great kid and I'm grateful that God let me be his father."
Ernie Graham was emotional after the game. So was Bauersfeld, Amatucci's hand-picked successor in 2006, when the long-time Calvert Hall coach retired. Under Amatucci, the Cards won 389 games and three of Calvert Hall's now six Catholic League championships. Before the 1984 season, Amatucci left to take the head coaching job at Loyola College. In March of '84, the Cards beat Cardinal Gibbons, 69-66, under coach Charlie Reif for their final tournament championship win as Ferrell, Eddie Oliver and Bobby Graves led the way -- the last championship until Monday night.
"It's a family here," said Bauersfeld, whose dad Bill was a pioneer in setting up and running the Baltimore Chapter of the National Football Foundation's Scholar-Athlete Award's dinner. "I have to thank Tooch (Mark Amatucci) for helping me out and pointing me in the right direction. He believed in me and words can't describe how much he means to me."
Posted March 2, 2010